Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been indicted on public corruption charges after a two-year investigation and less than six weeks before the nation’s general election, Israel’s attorney general announced Thursday.
Netanyahu — who is currently serving in his third consecutive term as prime minister and fourth overall — faces one count of bribery and two counts of fraud and breach of trust, NBC News reported.
The most serious charge alleges Netanyahu provided regulatory concessions to Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq telecommunications, in exchange for favorable media coverage from Bezeq’a news site, called Walla, according to Haaretz.
The prime minister is also accused of accepting gifts from wealthy business figures in exchange for political favors.
Another charge centers around an alleged deal with Arnon Mozes for favorable news coverage in return for supporting legislation to damage the newspaper Israel Hayom, owned by American businessman Sheldon Adelson.
Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz came to Netanyahu’s defense.
“I’m very worried for freedom of the press and freedom of government in Israel if they start indicting people for trying to get good coverage from the media,” Dershowitz told Army Radio, according to The Times of Israel.
“I don’t know of any other country that has criminalized trying to get good coverage and make that a basis of bribery or any other corruption investigation.”
Israeli law professor Said Avi Bell told NBC News that the indictment inserts law enforcement into the nation’s politics “in an unprecedented way, and on a very shaky legal foundation.”
Netanyahu’s Likud Party responded to the indictment announcement, saying in a statement that “there is nothing” to the cases.
The party accused “the media and the left” of pressuring a “weak” attorney general into the decision. “No one is surprised by the announcement.”
The statement further claimed that “the witch hunt against the prime minister began with an attempt to hit him with four bribery cases. Even before the hearing, three of those have collapsed.”
Asked about the then-anticipated indictment announcement, President Donald Trump told reporters in Vietnam that he did not know about the specific charges.
“I think he’s been a great prime minister,” he said.
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) February 28, 2019
“He’s done a great job as prime minister,” the president added. “He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s strong.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.